Bacow ends Naked Quad Run
Published: Monday, March 14, 2011
Updated: Monday, March 14, 2011 14:03
The university will no longer sanction the annual Naked Quad Run (NQR) due to concerns over participants' safety and the risk of student death, the Daily has learned.
The decades-long tradition, in which students partake in a large-scale, clothing-free sprint around the Res Quad to celebrate the end of fall semester classes, will no longer be permitted to take place, University President Lawrence Bacow revealed to the Daily.
In both interviews with the Daily and an op-ed published today, Bacow said the university can no longer tolerate the event in light of the inherent dangers it presents, particularly the serious risks to student safety from a combination of dangerous levels of alcohol consumption, icy roads and cold temperatures.
The president has directed Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman, along with Tufts Community Union President Sam Wallis and Programming Board Co-Chair Sarah Habib, both seniors, to drive a search for an alternative event to replace the naked run.
"Given that we can no longer manage the run, we cannot allow this ‘tradition' to continue," Bacow said in the op-ed. "Even if I did not act now, NQR would end some day. The only question is whether a student has to die first."
"We cannot allow this to happen, and the Naked Quad Run will not continue," Bacow continued.
The announcement comes as the university continues to handle the fallout from this year's event. Officials ended the December run earlier than usual, resulting in the arrest of one student amid accusations by attendees of police misbehavior. Alcohol abuse also increased, Reitman said in January.
In his op-ed, Bacow said the university has tried to manage NQR, but that it ultimately had become too big to control, putting students at a greater — and potentially even fatal — risk.
The university president told the Daily on Friday that he originally consulted with senior administrators and members of his leadership team in a debriefing after December's run, but that it fell to him to make the call.
"In the end, it's my decision," Bacow said.
Trustees express concerns
NQR was one subject of a Board of Trustees discussion last month on the topic of alcohol and risk, which took place during the trustees' regular meeting on Tufts' Medford/Somerville campus. The plenary session brought in university health officials, student leaders and administrators.
At the discussion, trustees learned of increases in both the number of instances of student alcohol abuse and the levels of intoxication health officials have encountered, according to Stacey Sperling, a physician at Health Service who is the medical director of Tufts Emergency Medical Services. Sperling presented data on alcohol abuse at Tufts, including numbers from Spring Fling and NQR.
The trustees listened and asked thoughtful questions of many of the presenters, Sperling said, but left any decision about a potential course of action to be determined by the president.
"By the end of the meeting, there was no consensus from the board, but they were clearly very interested and concerned," she said. "They were not either condoning or not condoning the Naked Quad Run."
Ian Wong, the director of health education, spoke at the session and said that, in addition to NQR, the discussion touched on how to best prevent alcohol abuse, particularly among freshmen.
Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler last month said that the monitoring of alcohol use on campus falls under the trustees' duties.
"It's one of their responsibilities to keep an eye on potential risks at the university and make sure that things are being handled appropriately and so forth," she said.
At that meeting, Wallis and Habib spoke to the trustees about NQR. Wallis spoke of the changes to the university's alcohol policy, while Habib focused more on the programming aspect of the event, she said.
"I think the trustees were surprised to hear about some of what went on during NQR," Wallis said.
Habib said the event was valuable in that it raised school spirit. Though the trustees acknowledged her concerns, some of her exchanges with the trustees on the topic were "heated," she said.
"At the end of the day, [school spirit] concerns do not outweigh student safety, so we lost," Habib said.
Both students were made aware of Bacow's decision last Thursday, according to Wallis.
"I was disappointed," Habib said of the final decision, "but at this point I just want to make the best of the situation."
Wallis, too, expressed disappointment, but looked for an upside.
"We view this as an opportunity to come up with something really cool," Wallis said.
"Clearly, the administration feels that it's not safe enough," Habib said. "At the end of the day, we're not going to debate the decision the administration made."
History, tradition, alcohol
NQR, which has traditionally taken place on the evening of the last day of classes in December, has long been steeped in controversy.
The university officially began providing support for the run in 2003 in order to ensure student safety, and Tufts University Police Department officers and those from other departments have over the years policed the event.
But logistical headaches, safety issues and liability concerns have marred the running of NQR — more formally recognized by administrators as the Nighttime Quad Reception — since its informal beginnings as an exam-week tradition in the 1970s.
University officials have over the years expressed displeasure with the run, which has been one of few campus-wide events that bring together a significant percentage of the undergraduate student body. In January, Reitman told the Daily that the university and police have never been comfortable managing an event in which they are effectively permitting public nudity to occur and in which they encounter an abnormal amount of alcohol abuse.